Coventry Telegraph journalists are considering strike action after complaining that the paper has gone from 27 reporters to 15 in six years.
Journalists at the Trinity Mirror title say that jobs have been lost through redundancy and not been replaced.
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The National Union of Journalists claims that the number of reporters is far too few to run a 64-page paper with a circulation of just under 50,000 and which covers a population of 800,000.
In a mark of protest, union members will take a full hour’s lunch next Friday. According to the NUJ, they are normally only allowed 30 minutes. On 5 November staff will take part in a chapel meeting during working hours as part of a national day of union action, to coincide with the Society of Editors’ annual conference in Manchester.
NUJ northern organiser Chris Morley stressed that it was up to union members whether the action lasted ‘five minutes or all day”. He told Press Gazette: ‘Effectively we are sending the management the message that this needs to be sorted out.
‘The key thing is that they [Trinity] have started to cotton on that this is a real issue. It’s in the hands of the management now. We are hoping a solution can be found with the least damage all round. We want to make sure that [Trinity] knows how bad the situation is in Coventry and to talk about how it is going to be sorted so the quality of journalism doesn’t falter.’
Chapel officials were told on Monday that a reporter would be brought in to replace one who left in the past few weeks. But Morley said the chapel was ‘not convinced that this is anything meaningful”.
Until the action is resolved staff will withdraw ‘goodwill”, such as missing breaks and working unpaid overtime.
Lucy Lynch, mother of chapel at the Telegraph, said: ‘It’s a good place to work, but we know we could do a better job with more staff.”
The chapel has used a list of office contact details of Telegraph staff from 2002 to illustrate the decline in numbers. In 2002 there were seven general reporters, four trainees, seven specialists and nine district reporters: a total of 27. Currently there are four general full-time reporters, three part-time reporters, one trainee, three district reporters and four specialists – 15 in total (three part-time).
Talks between staff and union officials and the conciliation service Acas in August failed to reach an agreement. The union will officially serve notice of industrial action on Friday.
Trinity Mirror declined to comment. Telegraph editor Alan Kirby was unavailable for comment.